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Yes, Facebook buys information on what you do offline as well: Report

Facebook uses algorithms to categorise its users in tens of thousands of micro-targetable groups for advertisers.

By: Tech Desk | New York |
December 29, 2016 7:19:24 pm
Facebook, third party brokers, offline information,Pro Publica, Facebook infringes on users rights, data breach, data infringement, data brokers, How does Facebook get my offline data, Does Facebook have access to my data, Technology, Technology news Pro Public reveals Facebook buys users offline data via third party data brokers (Source: AP)

Facebook already knows a lot about your online activities and you are pretty much aware of it. But a new media investigation has revealed that the social networking giant buys data on your offline activities without your knowledge. The information that Facebook collects can include things like how much money you make, the stores you shop in, and even the number of credit cards you own, according to the investigation by US website ProPublica.

At the heart of the issue is that the tech giant gives users little indication that it buys far more sensitive data about them than what the social media platform declares it knows. “Facebook’s site says it gets information about its users ‘from a few different sources’,” ProPublica said in its report.

“What the page doesn’t say is that those sources include detailed dossiers obtained from commercial data brokers about users’ offline lives. Nor does Facebook show users any of the often remarkably detailed information it gets from those brokers,” it added.

Online, Facebook uses algorithms to categorise its users in tens of thousands of micro-targetable groups for advertisers.

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Jeffrey Chester, Executive Director of the Center for Digital Democracy, told ProPublica that the social network was not being honest. “Facebook is bundling a dozen different data companies to target an individual customer, and an individual should have access to that bundle as well,” Chester noted.

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Asked about the lack of disclosure, Facebook said it doesn’t reveal about third-party data as the information in widely available by the digital footprint people leave behind. “Our approach to controls for third-party categories is somewhat different than our approach for Facebook-specific categories,” said Steve Satterfield, a Facebook manager of public policy and privacy. This, he said, is because the data providers they work with generally make their categories available across many different ad platforms, not just on Facebook. Satterfield added that users can go to a page at Facebook’s Help centre where users can use opt out for six data brokers that sell personal data to Facebook.

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Pro Publica conducted an experiment to see, how many data brokers they can opt out of, one reporter tried doing it, she opted out of 92 servers, 65 of which required a form of identification such as a driver’s license or a passport. Eventually she failed to pull her data out from most of the major providers.

After the investigation, ProPublica also tried finding out what kind of data Facebook buys from the ad buyers. They downloaded a list of 29,000 categories that the site provides to ad buyers. Nearly 600 of the categories were described as being provided by third-party data brokers.

After comparison between the two — data broker categories and crowd sourced list of what Facebook tells users — ProPublica found that the data broker information did not match any of the thousands of interests Facebook showed its users.

With inputs from IANS

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